• January 22, 2024

Audit Report Exposes Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Audit Report Exposes Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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By Alusine Fullah

The mandate as the supreme audit institution of Sierra Leone is to audit all government institutions and any other entities that receive money for and on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, as enshrined in Section 119 of 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, the Audit Service Act of 2014, and the Public Financial Management Act of 2016. As the guardian of Sierra Leone’s economic security, Audit Service Sierra Leone business is to ensure that public resources are utilised in the best interest of the citizens.

However, for the past years, many recommendations of the Audit Service Sierra Leone have not been taken into consideration especially by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Going through the 2022 and 2023 Audit Service Report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been the fountain of corruption. In other words, the report finds out huge corrupt practices at the foregoing ministry. The report states:

Despite the Audit Service Sierra Leone recommendations in previous audit reports, the Ministry continues to expend public money without the use of payment vouchers and its relevant supporting documents to support the use of the funds. In 2022, the report observed that bank withdrawals amounting to SLE1,398,012 made from the Ministry’s account were without payment vouchers and other supporting documents.

Apart from that, the report continues to expose the Ministry of its ineligible payment of Child and Allowances. The report states: “Ineligible Payment of Child and Education Allowances Rule 9.23 of the Civil Service Code, Regulations and Rules, 2011 guided the payment of school fees for dependent children attending school at the mission up to age 18. Our review of payment of child and education allowances to foreign mission staff revealed the following: Child and education allowances totalling US$16,900, £4,746.06 and €9,038.7 were paid to nine foreign mission staff, even though the birth certificates of these children indicated that they were above 18 years…”

As the ministry continues to grapple with corruption, Audit Service Sierra Leone also finds out that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been breathing in the habit of paying staff who do report for diplomatic assignment. The report exposes: “Staff Failing to Report for Diplomatic Assignment We observed that an officer was posted as a Cultural Attaché to the United Kingdom (UK) in June 2022 for which he received a total of SLE194, 645 (being posting allowance of SLE112, 745 and air tickets of SLE81, 900 for the staff and family). There was no evidence of his assumption of duty at the UK Mission.”

Also, based on a review of the personnel files and payroll records for Foreign Service officers and local staff during the period under review revealed that seven staff posted to foreign missions were still receiving salaries from both headquarters and foreign missions. According to the report, one staff who was repatriated and assumed duty at headquarters received salary from both headquarters and the foreign mission he was assigned to. The salaries paid to these staff amounted to SLE125, 380.82 and US$9,400 respectively.

The Report firmly noted that the Director of Administration and Finance should ensure that the amounts are recovered from the staff and paid into the CF. Additionally, birth certificates and copies of passports should be submitted for children for whom US$8,450 and €20,487.72 were paid as child and education allowances. Otherwise, the amounts should be recovered and paid into the CF.

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